Founder Profile

Polly Rodriguez

Unbound

Getting her woman-first sex toys to market was worth fighting for.

After beating cancer, Polly Rodriguez found that a side effect of her radiation treatment was menopause at age 21. The experience caused her to rethink her body and to research lubricants and the world of sexual wellness--which led to the realization that most sex toys were made by men, and weren’t optimal for women. Rodriguez set out to make vibrators that don’t need to be hidden in the sock drawer: one looks like a beauty blender (it’s a teardrop sponge, gents); another is a chunky geometric metal ring. And she has found more than 250,000 customers while facing two massive hurdles: Her company is considered a “moral hazard,” like gambling, and most investment firms won’t touch it. (Despite that, she raised $3.7 million.) And makers of sex toys are prohibited from advertising on Facebook and other social media, the most obvious places to find their customers. Rodriguez has been vocal about the double standard in men’s and women’s health, and has partnered with Dame Products to launch a campaign called Approved, Not Approved to raise awareness of how that inequity plays out in sexual wellness advertising. “My most audacious goal is for Unbound to be a household brand name,” says Rodriguez, “and for vibrators and lubricants to be considered as mainstream as condoms and the little blue pill.” --Christine Lagorio-Chafkin

Industry
Consumer Products
Year Founded
2014
Location
New York, New York
Industry
All Things Consumer
Co-founder
Sarah Jayne Kinney
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

After beating cancer, Polly Rodriguez found that a side effect of her radiation treatment was menopause at age 21. The experience caused her to rethink her body and to research lubricants and the world of sexual wellness--which led to the realization that most sex toys were made by men, and weren’t optimal for women. Rodriguez set out to make vibrators that don’t need to be hidden in the sock drawer: one looks like a beauty blender (it’s a teardrop sponge, gents); another is a chunky geometric metal ring. And she has found more than 250,000 customers while facing two massive hurdles: Her company is considered a “moral hazard,” like gambling, and most investment firms won’t touch it. (Despite that, she raised $3.7 million.) And makers of sex toys are prohibited from advertising on Facebook and other social media, the most obvious places to find their customers. Rodriguez has been vocal about the double standard in men’s and women’s health, and has partnered with Dame Products to launch a campaign called Approved, Not Approved to raise awareness of how that inequity plays out in sexual wellness advertising. “My most audacious goal is for Unbound to be a household brand name,” says Rodriguez, “and for vibrators and lubricants to be considered as mainstream as condoms and the little blue pill.” --Christine Lagorio-Chafkin

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Jen Rubio

Away

She reinvented the suitcase and then sold a million of them. Now her company is worth $1.4 billion.

Jen Rubio. Courtesy subject

After being told in college that she couldn’t get into marketing without an MBA, Jen Rubio struck out on her own, pioneering social-media strategies for a number of brands until she landed at Warby Parker, which disrupted the eyewear market. In 2015, she and fellow Warby alum Steph Korey did the same thing to the luggage industry by launching Away. Beautiful design and a focus on customer interaction gave Away’s luggage Instagram rocket fuel, and by 2019 the company was valued at $1.4 billion. Revenue in 2019 is projected at $300 million—but the big project is international expansion. The company is eyeing China, where travel is exploding, and plans to add 50 new stores to its existing seven by 2022. Away is also expanding product lines, with the goal being, as Rubio says, “to completely transform the entire travel experience.” --Christine Lagorio-Chafkin

Industry
Retail
Year Founded
2015
Location
New York, New York
Industry
All Things Consumer
Co-founder
Steph Korey
Twitter
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

After being told in college that she couldn’t get into marketing without an MBA, Jen Rubio struck out on her own, pioneering social-media strategies for a number of brands until she landed at Warby Parker, which disrupted the eyewear market. In 2015, she and fellow Warby alum Steph Korey did the same thing to the luggage industry by launching Away. Beautiful design and a focus on customer interaction gave Away’s luggage Instagram rocket fuel, and by 2019 the company was valued at $1.4 billion. Revenue in 2019 is projected at $300 million—but the big project is international expansion. The company is eyeing China, where travel is exploding, and plans to add 50 new stores to its existing seven by 2022. Away is also expanding product lines, with the goal being, as Rubio says, “to completely transform the entire travel experience.” --Christine Lagorio-Chafkin

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Katherine Ryder

Maven

Her digital health clinic has given two million women access to on-demand health care.

Katherine Ryder. Courtesy subject

Kate Ryder is helping companies retain their most valuable asset: employees. New mothers who use Maven, the digital health clinic Ryder founded in 2014, are more likely to remain in the workplace, she says. The health app lets women connect with more than 1,500 health practitioners for a variety of services, including birth-control prescriptions, breast-milk shipping, and treatments for post-partum depression. Maven’s data shows that 90 percent of its users return to work on time after having a baby, compared with the national average of 57 percent. Its platform is available to individuals on a per-session basis, and also for companies and health plans looking to enrich their benefits. Snapchat’s parent company, Snap, is already on board. With more than $42 million in funding, Maven has helped more than two million people get access to health care. --Guadalupe Gonzalez

Industry
Health Services
Year Founded
2014
Location
New York, New York
Industry
Fitness Nation
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

Kate Ryder is helping companies retain their most valuable asset: employees. New mothers who use Maven, the digital health clinic Ryder founded in 2014, are more likely to remain in the workplace, she says. The health app lets women connect with more than 1,500 health practitioners for a variety of services, including birth-control prescriptions, breast-milk shipping, and treatments for post-partum depression. Maven’s data shows that 90 percent of its users return to work on time after having a baby, compared with the national average of 57 percent. Its platform is available to individuals on a per-session basis, and also for companies and health plans looking to enrich their benefits. Snapchat’s parent company, Snap, is already on board. With more than $42 million in funding, Maven has helped more than two million people get access to health care. --Guadalupe Gonzalez

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Marcela Sapone

Hello Alfred

She's helping thousands of customers avoid mundane household tasks.

Marcela Sapone. Courtesy subject

In 2014, the founders of Hello Alfred won the TechCrunch Disrupt SF pitch competition--becoming the first all-female founder team to do so--after wowing judges with its vision of an on-demand concierge service that connects customers with a professionally trained home manager to complete workaday household errands like cleaning, laundry, and pet care. Since then, Hello Alfred has raised $52.2 million. This March, the company launched its new platform, Powered by Alfred, a more gently priced service, and in May, it landed a partnership with Greystar, the nation’s largest apartment property manager, to provide its concierge services for Greystar’s nearly half a million units. Also this year, Hello Alfred expanded its reach to 22 cities (it started the year at 12). “I’d like for us to be one of the generation-defining companies. I don’t think there’s been one since Uber or Airbnb,” Sapone says. “And there’s never been one run by women.” --Emily Canal

Industry
Consumer Services
Year Founded
2014
Location
New York, New York
Industry
The Platform Economy
Co-founder
Jessica Beck
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

In 2014, the founders of Hello Alfred won the TechCrunch Disrupt SF pitch competition--becoming the first all-female founder team to do so--after wowing judges with its vision of an on-demand concierge service that connects customers with a professionally trained home manager to complete workaday household errands like cleaning, laundry, and pet care. Since then, Hello Alfred has raised $52.2 million. This March, the company launched its new platform, Powered by Alfred, a more gently priced service, and in May, it landed a partnership with Greystar, the nation’s largest apartment property manager, to provide its concierge services for Greystar’s nearly half a million units. Also this year, Hello Alfred expanded its reach to 22 cities (it started the year at 12). “I’d like for us to be one of the generation-defining companies. I don’t think there’s been one since Uber or Airbnb,” Sapone says. “And there’s never been one run by women.” --Emily Canal

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Jaime Schmidt

Supermaker

She sold her personal care business. Now she invests in ventures of underrepresented entrepreneurs.

Jaime Schmidt. Courtesy subject

After selling her personal care business, Schmidt’s Naturals, to Unilever in 2017, Jaime Schmidt was besieged by aspiring founders seeking advice. She could only do so many coffee dates. So she and Chris Cantino, her husband and business partner, decided to spend some of their Unilever money helping undersupported entrepreneurs—women and people of color--along the trajectory to success. Their first venture, the investment fund Color, launched last year and has backed, among others, the nut butter company Wild Friends and Bubble, an online marketplace for healthy foods. Then, in June, came Supermaker, a media platform that publishes articles about emerging brands with diverse founders as well as workplace trends and advice for both entrepreneurs and employees. “A big part of our success at Schmidt’s was the storytelling we did for the brand,” she says. Color and Supermaker are also partnering on a program of quarterly grants to help female and nonbinary founders. “It wasn’t as sophisticated when I started in 2010,” says Schmidt. “Now people are really serious about turning their passions into profits.” --Leigh Buchanan

Industry
Media
Year Founded
2017
Location
Portland, Oregon
Industry
All Things Consumer
Co-founder
Chris Cantino
Data as of Publication on Sep 16, 2019
Inc. Honors
Inc. Female Founders
2019

After selling her personal care business, Schmidt’s Naturals, to Unilever in 2017, Jaime Schmidt was besieged by aspiring founders seeking advice. She could only do so many coffee dates. So she and Chris Cantino, her husband and business partner, decided to spend some of their Unilever money helping undersupported entrepreneurs—women and people of color--along the trajectory to success. Their first venture, the investment fund Color, launched last year and has backed, among others, the nut butter company Wild Friends and Bubble, an online marketplace for healthy foods. Then, in June, came Supermaker, a media platform that publishes articles about emerging brands with diverse founders as well as workplace trends and advice for both entrepreneurs and employees. “A big part of our success at Schmidt’s was the storytelling we did for the brand,” she says. Color and Supermaker are also partnering on a program of quarterly grants to help female and nonbinary founders. “It wasn’t as sophisticated when I started in 2010,” says Schmidt. “Now people are really serious about turning their passions into profits.” --Leigh Buchanan

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